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Primary schools

Ysgol Plascrug (Ceredigion) - Tailored pastoral support for Service children

Ysgol Plascrug (Ceredigion) - Tailored pastoral support for Service children

Ysgol Plascrug is situated in Aberystwyth, a coastal location, mid-west of Wales. The school is not near an Armed Forces base or unit. There are currently two families at the school who are or have served in the Armed Forces. One of these families moved away to settle at their new posting but decided to return to the area to be near family.

Number of Service children at Ysgol Plascrug: 4 (1%)

Case study completed by: Meena Sweeny, Headteacher and Mair Hopson, Lead High Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA)

What challenges do Service children face at Ysgol Plascrug?

  • The deployment of a parent and dealing with the emotions that this brings when separated from a loved one
  • Dealing with separation when a parent lives away and stays at the base where they work during the week.

Estyn 2018

“There are extremely beneficial programmes to support vulnerable pupils, including those with additional emotional needs. For example, the use of specific language programmes and the effective use of the sensory room have a very positive affect on raising pupils’ self-esteem.” 

How do Ysgol Plascrug support the needs of Service children, despite their being a small cohort of children?

  1. Identifying Service children’s needs
  2. Strategies and support
  3. Measuring impact
  4. Impact of support strategies
  5. Sustainability
  6. Funding
  7. Engaging with the Armed Forces community

1.    How does Ysgol Plascrug identify Service children’s needs?

  • We identify their needs following their initial settling in period – What are there gaps in learning? or extension of learning needed?
  • Teachers complete the Boxall Profile, which is an assessment tool to identify specific emotional needs
  • A drop-in clinic for parents is available during the week, where parents can share any issues or needs
  • New parents to the school, complete a questionnaire and have an opportunity to share information about their child
  • We get to know the children in all areas of their learning and wellbeing, as part of our everyday school practice
  • Class teachers carry out day to day assessments of the children through daily learning, which highlights any needs for interventions and support, either in class or in small groups/one to one.

2.    What strategies and support are available at Ysgol Plascrug to support a child’s emotional needs?

  • Ysgol Plascrug is a school that upholds the ‘Rights of the Child’ and supports children in understanding these rights and values across the school through the curriculum learning
  • There is a whole school wellbeing ethos developed across the curriculum and the learning and teaching principles
  • Interventions are available for different learning areas to accelerate progress in Literacy/Numeracy
  • The school has developed a range of wellbeing support strategies and resources across the school, including Emotional Literacy Support Assistant (ELSA) and Nurture trained staff, with a dedicated space for ELSA and nurture support; all staff trained are aware of the wellbeing needs of the children and use assessments to track and monitor emotional needs of children
  • Nurture support is available three times a week. The Boxall profile outcomes identify children’s needs linked to their areas of development
  • Additional books are available that provide emotional support and we use technology to allow communication with the parent during deployment/separation
  • The school has a wide variety of outdoor learning opportunities that supports the wellbeing needs of all the children
  • We offer a wide variety of activities linked to the local community, including visits to pet shop/cafe/DIY store/Supermarket, broadening children’s experiences, understanding and develops an awareness of different situations
  • The school is aware of the difficulties Armed Forces face spending quality time together, due to their lifestyle and they take this into account when granting ‘leave of absence’.
  • We provide support for parents through regular drop-ins with trained staff.

Estyn 2018

“Pupils have a very strong understanding of the importance of rights and values as demonstrated by their knowledge of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. For example, they explain in detail to visitors the impact that World War 2 had on the rights of children, who had been denied freedom during the conflict.”

3.    How does Ysgol Plascrug measure the impact of the support and strategies?

  • Service children are now recognised as a group that may need support at some point in their education and that every child is different, their progress is tracked and monitored
  • Assessments are completed using the Boxall Profile, and these have shown improvements in the children’s emotional wellbeing and this has been supported by parent discussions and feedback
  • Children measure their emotions and how they are feeling before and after sessions using charts
  • Formative assessment is used through the daily curriculum and teacher/parents and child feedback
  • Learning targets for all children have a focus area of emotional needs and wellbeing, the progress towards these is monitored and this is shared with children and parents.

Estyn 2018

“The school has comprehensive and robust systems to track and monitor pupils’ achievements, progress, behaviour and attendance. Leaders and staff use these effectively to identify the specific needs of pupils of all abilities and language backgrounds. The school then provides pupils a wide range of programmes that meet their needs successfully.”


4.    How has the impact of support strategies at Ysgol Plascrug been disseminated to share the good practice?

  • We are a Pioneer School that continues to take a lead in teaching and learning initiatives and developments, sharing these with other schools and they have been recognised by the local authority and Estyn
  • Raising the profile of emotional wellbeing has had an overall impact on the whole school approach to mental health and wellbeing as highlighted in Estyn 2018, we have continued to support and developed this area through our whole school strategic planning.

5.    How will Ysgol Plascrug ensure sustainable support for Service children in the future?

  • Nurture and ELSA have developed and evolved and will continue to support all groups of children
  • The school will continue to appoint an LSA to support mental health and wellbeing with the support of funding that is available
  • We will ensure training is updated as required for LSAs and teaching staff
  • The school will continue to use the resources in place and available across all groups of learners and required and support is identified, including the ELSA/Nurture hut which was funded externally
  • Mental health and wellbeing development continue to be a whole school focus, in line with the implementation and expectations of the new Welsh curriculum
  • We will ensure that staff are updated with training and new staff understand the importance of wellbeing support and curriculum on induction to the school.

Estyn 2018

“The school’s care, support and guidance for pupils promote their wellbeing exceptionally well and ensure that they have excellent opportunities to thrive in their academic, social, moral and emotional development. Staff know pupils extremely well and provide them with a nurturing environment that develops their confidence, self-esteem and positive, mature attitudes to learning. There is a consistent emphasis on developing pupils’ understanding of their human rights, which has a positive effect on their exemplary attitudes and behavior.”

6.   Has Ysgol Plascrug accessed funding to support Service children’s needs?

Extract from the Royal British Legion – Supporting Service Children in Wales - Best Practice Guide 2018

“In 2016 Head-teacher Menna Sweeney applied to the Education Support Fund (ESF), following the identification of two Service families in the school. It was felt by the school that more support should be in place for these families who were dealing with unique issues and challenges. Working with the families, the school identified

that support with after school care for the children would be beneficial for parents, particularly where one parent was on deployment. New resources for the classroom which Service children and their peers could use, were additionally seen as a priority area. The school also consulted the local Armed Forces champion and the local Covenant partnership to build links and understanding of the issues locally.

Thanks to ESF funding in 2016/17, the school has managed to provide a new after-school club to provide care for the Service children and their fellow pupils, in addition to their usual provision. This ‘Multi skills’ club allowed the children to stay on after school, providing welcome childcare for the families, whilst learning, playing and having fun in a safe environment. The funding has also been used to provide an iPad so the Service children can share their work with their deployed parent. The children have also been able to video call when they were away which has been of great benefit to the whole family.

Additional resources, such as books and learning tools, have been purchased and the school’s nurture unit – again utilised by the Service children and their classmates – has been renovated outside to provide a nice environment for learning outside the classroom.”

7.    What links does Ysgol Plascrug have with the local community and the Armed Forces?

  • We have liaised and built links with schools in the Brecon area and sought advice and support, following initial identification of Service children at our school and their possible emotional needs
  • We share outcomes at a good practice conference in the local authority
  • We attend local Armed Forces meetings and liaise with the Armed Forces champion
  • Parent drop-ins and links with Service parents will continue
  • Networking with SSCE Cymru, utilizing the website, resources and support available.

Examples of impact...

1. The school has built an awareness of how all children can support each other, which has brought together children with similar challenges who have supported each other with their feelings e.g. a Service child supported a non-Service child who suffered bereavement and the children talked about the absence of a parent and made links and talked about their feelings. They were a great support to each other and had an understanding of how it felt, they built a bond and went on to write a song together to express their feelings

2. A Service child that struggled emotionally when separated from their parent was encourages to attend an after-school club; which proved a welcomed distraction and a place for the child to feel comfortable to process their emotions.

Date produced: January 2020 


Primary schools

Service children’s quotes

"As soon as we get used to a house, you get moved - I’ve been to four schools and moved six times."


"I lived in Nepal, then we went to Brunei, then Malaysia."


"In my eyes, you have hundreds of friends in different places."


"I’m used to moving now and mixing with the children... I’ve done it so many times, it’s just a normal thing now."


"It's ok talking over skype and that, but sometimes you just want a hug when Dad is away."


"I’ve enjoyed going around to lots of places around the world, it's adventurous and exciting."


"In my eyes, you have hundreds of friends in different places."


"My mum got a chalk board and it says how many sleeps on it with chalk, every minute it’s getting closer for him coming home."


"I don’t want him to get promoted... I want him to get promoted but I don’t want to leave."


"I might be going to boarding school so that I don’t change schools every few years."


"I've been to seven different schools; I’ve not stayed put in one school long enough."


"He has been away for six months and he is back for two weeks, then he goes away again."


"My parents were in the Army. My mum is a like a nurse and my dad went to the war in Afghanistan. I actually didn’t really know what he was doing so I was like, ‘Cool Dad, go there,’ but then I found out and thought, 'Thank God he came back alive.'"


"He signed off last week, so he will be done by the end of this year. He’s done 24 years. I find that better because he will be around a lot. He likes watching us playing rugby, so he will get to see us more."


"I’m going to a new place entirely. They don’t know anything about me and that’s a big restart and that’s really good for me."


"I moved to Wales because my dad was posted in the Army. I thought I would get bullied and I was shy when you meet new people, but I made some friends."